KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jorge Villafana is plying his trade in Mexico these days, but his international hopes are still pinned to the country of his birth.
The California native and 2007 Sueño MLS winner spent seven years with now-defunct Chivas USA and two more with Portland – where he helped the Timbers win the 2015 MLS Cup title – before being sold to Liga MX side Santos Laguna. He has not played for the United States since 2012, when he featured with the U-23 squad, and is still eligible to play for Mexico, where he spent part of his youth before returning to the US.
Still, Villafana told reporters after Tuesday night's 1-1 exhibition draw against league champions Pachuca at Children's Mercy Park, he remains hopeful that a senior call-up for the Yanks will come.
“I have already played for the U-20s, the U-23s,” he said. “You always want to get that call-up, but I haven't gotten it from the US yet. It's not up to the player. The player just does his work, and things come up. I'm just working and seeing what the future holds.”
In the meantime, Villafana is enjoying his time in Liga MX. Moving to Santos Laguna fulfilled a longtime dream of playing in another country, he said.
“I'm really happy to be part of this institution,” he said. “I always wanted to play abroad. It didn't matter where. I ended up being in Mexico, but you never know what the future holds for you. You've just got to keep working every day, and the opportunities are going to open.
“As a defender, you're always trying to get better on the defensive side, covering the lines and being good 1-v-1,” he said. “Up top, you try to be a good option to pass and get some good crosses and some assists.”
Even though the Torreon club is now his primary focus, Villafana has been keeping up with the Timbers' fortunes since his offseason sale.
“I've been following them every game,” he said. “It's been a slow start, but they've been picking it up. It's always tough when you get a championship and then you leave. You always have a heart for that team.”
He has a tangible memento of his success with the Timbers as well – his MLS Cup championship ring.
“They sent it to my house in LA,” he said. “On vacation, I picked it up.”
Steve Brisendine covers soccer in Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.